Daniel Meara spent his early years in Fort Scott, though he attended high school and college elsewhere. But upon finishing law school, he and his family came right back to Fort Scott where he started his practice, which continued for the next 45 years.
But while Meara settled into a lengthy career of practicing law, which included time spent as city attorneys for different towns as well as the Bourbon County Attorney for a decade, law was not Meara’s goal when he entered college.
“There were no lawyers in my family that I was aware of,” Meara admitted. “When I was in college, I really didn’t know what to do.”
Eventually, Meara settled with graduating in 1965 with a degree in English and a minor in biology. But when a good friend of his went to take the Law School Admission Test, Meara decided to try it as well and scored well enough to enter law school.
With no fear of being drafted, since he had failed to pass the physical exam when he volunteered because of the effects of a childhood illness, Meara decided to continue his schooling.
While in law school, Meara married his wife JoAnn, and when he completed and then passed the bar exam, they decided to move to a smaller town to start his practice and raise their family.
“It seemed like a nice place to live,” Meara said of returning to his hometown of Fort Scott.
That decision became history as Meara opened his practice Sept. 1, 1970, and carried it on until Sept. 1, 2015. But now Meara looks forward to retirement, though it will not start immediately, despite the retirement party held in his honor Tuesday evening, as he closes out his practice.
“You can’t just walk away,” Meara said, saying he has stopped taking new business and is now wrapping up other responsibilities before he can officially retire.
While Meara said he is looking forward to retirement and working on house projects, reading more books for his book club and organizing photos, he still considers the idea of retirement a little unsettling after so many years of practicing.
“It’s an adjustment,” Meara said. “I spent 45 years building up my practice.”
Meara said with his retirement, he and his wife are looking forward to visiting their seven children scattered around the states and the United States, one of whom is now practicing law herself, as well as spending time with their grandchildren.
“That’s something we want to be able to get more of,” Meara said, saying previous visits were often brief because of his duties in Fort Scott.
While Meara says he “stumbled into” his law practice after changing his mind during his college education, he considers that career a blessing and encouraged his children to not be afraid of switching majors in college if they find something else they enjoy more. Meara said the worst thing that could happen is ending up in a job one does not enjoy.
“I was fortunate enough to find a job I enjoy doing,” Meara said, saying his favorite part of the job has been meeting people. “Everybody has a story and you can run into some of the most interesting stories.”